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Britain's Greatest GeneralBritain's Greatest General


Lt Col JB Brown
18 January 2011, 11.11pm

A superb starategist with

A superb starategist with foresight, appreciation of the enemy and a depth of understanding of the logistic battle beyond most 'non-logisticians' which actually was a major factor in his considerable sucessess.

He was the first and most farsighted of Britains Generals in the 2nd WW and was undermined by Churchill for no good reason other than Churchills insistance that Wavell support a sideshow in Greece rather than definitively smash Rommells troops in North Africa.

An excellent General, well worth studying; his sucesses far outweighted his defeat at Tobruck by Rommell which was actually, just a tactical setback caused by a strategic decision which was not right in the first place by a Prime Minister who, whilst untimately was strategically successfull by 1945, interfered with tactical decisions far too often.

M. Hammerton
25 January 2011, 3.13pm

Not the greatest general;

Not the greatest general; but perhaps the one it would be most agreeable to have dinner with.

John Norris
25 January 2011, 5.25pm

Perhaps not the best of our

Perhaps not the best of our WW2 generals, but close, and streets ahead of the interfering Winston Churchill. I have never forgotten his (rare) acid comment that heavy casualties were not evidence of good tactics!

B J Turner
28 January 2011, 8.33am

The only General in WW2 to

The only General in WW2 to control the vast Mediteranean and the Near East all at the same time. Abbysinia-Western Desert-Greece and Crete-Syria and Iraq. With poor resources he did his best even though he was forced to obey the political line eg Greece and Crete! Even so any man that could produce an anthology of poetry-"Anotherman's Flowers"while "Generaling" must be excellent

Patrick W Anderson
2 February 2011, 12.56pm

Archibald Percival Wavell

Archibald Percival Wavell was an excellent General who had fame in his famous Regiment The Black Watch . He was Field Marshall when my godfather Brigadier James A Oliver Black Watch was serving in WW2 .

Ian Neve
17 May 2011, 1.42pm

Could have been great if he

Could have been great if he had been allowed to drive the Italians out of Africa instead of defending the indefensible in Greece and Crete. When people talk of how the enigma intercepts shortened the war I am reminded that we dared not set up proper defences in Crete in case we revealed our ability to decode enigma and of the report to Berlin outlining Rommel's poor situation when the Auk was ordered to mount his failed offensive.

jason taylor
21 November 2011, 4.11pm

Just as well because if Italy

Just as well because if Italy had been driven out, the Germans would not have diverted vain resources to it. Britain could afford the army needed for Africa as it couldn't practically do much else with it's army anyway at the time. Germany couldn't afford the troops not in Russia, and even less the long supply lines needed for it.

David Barnett
9 March 2015, 9.18am

After Abbysinia he coped very

After Abbysinia he coped very badly with the vast commands he was given. This was not all his fault, but in the early years of the war it seemed that Supreme Commanders were required to cover impossible areas. I am a student of Slim, and I don't see Wavell in the same class at all. This seemed to be recognised by his appointment as Governor of India, out of the way.

robert a. gaskell
9 May 2015, 10.27am

Wavell with his superb

Wavell with his superb strategic sense, given time and resources would have accomplished wonders in the desert war and his vast theater of operations. clearly the best British general officer of WWII. But enough said, just read Corelli Barnet's The Desert Generals, it says it ALL.

Major General (ret) Dimitris Gedeon
3 June 2015, 6.19am

As professor of Military

As professor of Military History I admired General Wavell and presented him as an example of integrity. As a Greek military man I have studied all the items regarding the participation of British forces in Greece. It is a long -and long-lasting- item and I do not intend to elaborate more. As Deputy Director of the Military History Directorate of the Hellenic Army General Staff (1997-1999) I found an interesting article of Field Marshal Wavell in the British magazine Army Quarterly. It was actually a presentation in a foreign Military Academy entitles THE BRITISH EXPEDITION TO GREECE 1941. I kept a copy of it and permit me to quote from the Field Marshal -at the conclusion of the presentation:

"Such is in outline the story of the genesis of our expedition to Greece. I hope to have shown you three things: that Great Britain and the Dominion troops came to the help of a smaller nation in spite of all risks, secondly that the Greek adventure was not forced on the military chiefs by the politicians as it sometimes is alleged and thirdly that the operation as originally planned in Tatoi on the 22nd of February was by no means as hopeless as the outcome made it seem."

It is also interesting to note also his conclusion: "On the other hand the evidence is clear that our intervention in Greece delayed the German attack on Russia by several weeks and thus saved Moscow for falling in the winter of 1941."

Just for information: Another article entitled THE ADMINISTRATIVE ASPECT OF THE CAMPAIGN IN GREECE IN 1941 by Brig. G. S. BRUNSKILL C.B.E., M.C. was published in the same magazine probably in early 1950s or late 1940s.

Peter Turner
5 July 2015, 7.56am

Good against the Italians but

Good against the Italians but no match for Rommel.

Harry Plummer
14 January 2016, 11.50pm

Vastly under rated and I

Vastly under rated and I belief very badly treated by Churchill.
I agree with Mr. Gaskell and urge students of WW 2 to read Barnet's book on the Desert Generals. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Barnett with his opinion of Wavell as I do with Mr. Turner's.

Tasneem Yousuff
19 October 2016, 12.10pm

I have a "SANAD" a Title of

I have a "SANAD" a Title of Honour with the signature of Lord Wavell the Viceroy of India that was awarded to my grandfather conferring on him the title of Khan Sahib, along with a medal. I also have many of my grandfather's memorabilia such as speeches etc which I greatly value.

David Stubbs
16 December 2016, 10.49am

Major General Dimitris Gideon

Major General Dimitris Gideon is right, in the end it was Wavell's choice to go to Greece, but I believe the political pressure on him to do so influenced the equation his mind was grappling with when he made the decision. My article in Air Power Review (2014) covers this in some depth for anyone interested. It can be found at:

Stephen Graeme Hodgson
13 January 2017, 12.42am

Wavell was not only a good

Wavell was not only a good soldier, but may be counted as a good statesman. He dealt with a very tricky situation in India at a time when the land was seriously threatened with Japanese invasion, especially after the Japanese air attack on Celyon and Indian coastal regions in 1942.

Gandhi seriously underestimated this threat, which Wavell responded to internally in Indian politics through appealing to Jinnah and the Moslem League. This was a very important political decision that helped Wavell to maintain order in India in 1942 when civil disobedience had lost sight of political realities.

Furthermore, his willingness to accommodate the Moslem League helped him to maintain the loyalty of India's Moslem soldiers, who made up more than one third of the British Imperial Indian Army fighting in North Africa and the Far East. As a military man he showed extraordinary forsight in terms of strategy, tactics and logistics. Interestingly, he promoted the career of Wingate, perhaps Britain's foremost guerilla expert, first in Abyssinia (Eithiopia) in 1941 to harrass the Italians, and then in Burma in 1943 against the Japanese.

Without Wavell's intervention the Chindit expedition, the British initiative to harrass the Japanese behind the lines and to cut their communications, would never have got off the ground.

It is a lasting legacy of Wavell's military foresight that special forces, supplied by the air, as was the case with the Chindits, represent the elite of the British armed forces today. Were Wavell still around, he would, I'm sure, represent the very best of what may be characterised as a 'political general,' one able to combine military and strategic duties with comprehensive administrative and political responsibilities.

Eric Linklater's moving quotation, cited above, justifies and gives credence to a man, whose deeds speak for themselves. Of all Churchill's generals, particularly because he stood up to the Prime Minister and earned his rebuke, Wavell shall remain remembered.

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